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Ethics & Religion
Col. 2104
December 8, 2021
A Father's Rape Demanded Abortion
By Mike McManus

Michele Goodwin was raped by her father the first time on the morning of her 10th birthday. "It would not be the last," she wrote in a column in The New York Times. "The shock was so severe that I temporarily went blind before I began the fifth grade a few weeks later."

"The physiological suffering that I endured included severe migraines, hair loss and even grey hair - at 10 years old. While other girls may have longed for puberty, I loathed the idea of it. My body became a vessel that was not mine. It had been taken from me. I lived in fear of the night and the footsteps outside of my bedroom door."

Her father sent her to elite schools in New York City where she studied ballet and took private violin and tennis lessons. However, at age 12 she was pregnant by her father who told the doctor that she was 15 and "had been reckless with a boyfriend."

She had an abortion and said her "shame was never about the abortion. I will be forever grateful that my pregnancy was terminated."

However, she writes powerfully "No child should be pressured or expected to carry a pregnancy and give birth, or feel remorse, guilt, doubt or unease about an abortion under any circumstances, let alone rape or incest."

Last week the Supreme Court considered a law passed in Mississippi that bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy - well before the established point of "viability" at around 24 weeks. Many pro-life leaders hope the nation's highest court will take this opportunity to reverse its Roe v. Wade decision of 1973 that legalized abortion.

Michele Goodwin's case illustrates how unfair such a decision would be. She left the economic security of her home at age 15. To support herself, she became a cleaning woman and lived in the home of a kind couple in an unfinished attic room, and went to court to defend herself as a survivor of childhood rape and pregnancy.

"As a survivor of childhood rape and pregnancy - and today as a law professor who teaches constitutional law and bioethics - I recognize the grave danger of the current drop of abortion bans.

"In Texas, the right to an abortion is virtually meaningless under Senate Bill 8 which bans most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, when many people will not know they are pregnant. Like the Mississippi ban, it provides no exceptions for rape or incest."

I agree with Prof. Goodwin that such laws are irresponsible. If they are not overturned, half the country will live in states that virtually ban abortion. Residents of those states who become unwillingly pregnant - must travel hundreds of miles to a state like California or New York which permits abortions.

Prof. Goodwin correctly denounces the "naive bravado of Gov. Greg Abbot of Texas suggesting that rape will disappear in his state with a tough-on-crime approach."

The governor imagines he can "eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas." However, as Prof Goodwin puts it, "like many abusers, my father was respected in the community, a successful businessman who was adored by family, friends and colleagues. I, on the other hand, felt alone and in fear. I was not only sexually abused but physically harmed as well. I was threatened to keep quiet and told by my father to 'grit your teeth and bear it.'

"No one ever wants to write about such experiences, exposing intimate aspects of their lives, revisiting traumatic aspects of childhood. That is probably a big reason survivors of incest do not come forward. "

While she was in college, a professor "warned me to never speak or write about my experiences. He believed that I had a bright future ahead and that I could be personally and professionally harmed by sharing my story."

However I agree with Prof. Goodwin that the lack of compassion by such states as Mississippi and Texas has forced girls "to risk their health and even death - by remaining pregnant. Like a military draft, the state has coercively conscripted rape victims and incest survivors to endure one more tremendous burden. To take another devastating physical and mental hit. To tie their lives to those of their rapists. This time it is state lawmakers who strong-arm their bodies into service."

This is patently unfair. I pray that Roe vs. Wade will not be overturned. No victim of rape or incest should be forced to have that baby. And I am grateful to Michelle Goodwin for telling her story.

However, girls and women should be taught various forms of birth control, to help them avoid pregnancy due to unwise sexual activity, rape or incest.

_________________________

Copyright (c)2021 Michael J. McManus, President of Marriage Savers and a syndicated columnist. To read past columns, go to www.ethicsandreligion.com. Hit Search for any topic.

 

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